Below are synopses of current working papers and articles. Expressions of interest for publication, presentation and so on are welcome.
A Field in England: Toward a Creative Methodology for Expressing the Occult Philosophy of Landscape
What can magical and occult philosophies, traditionally associated with invisible forces, bring to the experience of place and derivative creative works?
This first part of this paper focuses on the relationship between occult philosophy and the landscape, chiefly in England between 1500 and 1690. This particular period reflects not only the systematising of occult philosophies, via the transmission of Agrippa’s work, but also highlights changing attitudes to the landscape through processes of demonisation and desacralisation, which may be seen as antecedents to the so-called ‘disenchantment’ of the modern world.
The discussion that characterises the latter part of the paper asks how the ontologies and epistemologies suggested by occult philosophy and ritual magic may be brought into the service of ‘re-enchantment’ as contemporary creative practice. Particular emphasis is placed on Voss’ methodology of the imagination and Cascone’s transcendigital aesthetic, toward developing potential methods for practice that seek to express landscape through a ‘new mediatory art’.
Music in the Key of D: Harmonic Explorations of John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica
In his letter to Maximilian II which prefaced the Monas Hieroglyphica, Dee promotes the value of his Monad across a number of fields in addition to the alchemical. Among them are geography, astronomy and music. Dee’s Monad was in many ways progenitor to an alchemical tradition in which music plays an underrated part: it was the audible expression of the mathematical, rational world of the celestial spheres and a bridge between the spheres of nature and theology. This article explores Dee’s musical education and readings, some intriguing crossovers between two Johns (Dee and Dowland) and the author’s own explorations of tuning systems and compositional methods derived from the Monad.
Comparative Sorcery: Chinese Ku and European Magic
Idris Shah observed that “a Chinese wizard of the Middle Ages and his Western counterpart might well have understood each other’s motives, and even certain rituals,” and there are striking parallels between Daoist magic and the prevailing traditions of magic in Europe. This essay occupies the middle ground between scholarship and magical dream: a temporally and geographically wide-ranging investigation of the connections evoked as a consequence of reading Feng and Shryock’s essay The Black Magic in China Known as Ku (1935). This essay is chiefly known for inspiring Kenneth Grant’s writings on ‘The Cult of the Ku’ in Hecate’s Fountain. However there are striking parallels between Ku magic and European sorcery and witchcraft that are worthy of serious investigation. The essay covers not only Grant, but further elaboratates on the symbolism and function of Ku magic within a native context, along with parallels in European witch-lore, demonology, medicine, rituals of soul bondage, lepidopeteric magic in folklore and grimoires, along with the role of insects-as-djinn in Arabic toxicology with reference to Ihya Ulum-id-din and Kitab al-sumum.